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Where or what would you eat on your first day in Hawaii?

This question is posed to everyone, whether you’re an expat coming back home, an experienced Hawaii visitor, or a newcomer, a.k.a. “malahini”.

Being a lifetime Kama’aina (resident) myself, here’s my list of suggestions for you on the island of Oahu:

  • Hawaiian food – Highway Inn, Helena’s, Ono’s, Young’s, People’s Cafe
  • Plate lunch – Zippy’s, Richie’s Drive In, Rainbow Drive-In
  • Manapua – Libby’s, Char Hung Sut, Chun Wah Kam
  • Okazuya – Toshi’s, Gulick Delicatessen, Matsumoto’s, Mitsuba, Mitsuken, Nuuanu, Fukuya, St. Louis Delicatessen
  • Poke – Ono Seafood, Tanioka’s
  • Local comfort food – Oxtail Soup (Pho Bistro 2, Asahi Grill or The Alley), Saimin (Zippy’s Zip Min or Palace Saimin)
  • Store or open market – Yataimura Food Court @ Shirokiya, KCC Farmers Market
  • Anykine local grinds – Alicia’s Market, Marujyu Market, Masa & Joyce
  • Fine dining- Alan Wong’s, Roy’s (preferably Hawaii Kai)
  • Bakery- Kamehameha, Liliha, Leonard’s
  • Shave Ice – Shimazu, Waiola, Matsumoto
  • Wherever you grew up eating at in your home town (for me that would be Kin Wah Chop Suey in Kaneohe)
  • Who wants to eat? Hit the beach or sit by the pool sippin’ on Mai Tais all day long!

Stress, this must be your FIRST DAY in Hawaii, as one of those I MUST EAT THIS FIRST deals!


People’s Cafe Hawaiian Kaukau (food!)

Rainbow Drive-In Teriyaki Beef Plate Lunch (“Teri’ Plate”)

St. Louis Delicatessen Okazuya Plate: Corned Beef Hash, Vegetable TEmpura, Nishime, Konbu, Shoyu Hot Dog and Chow Funn

Libby Manapua Shop’s steamed Charsiu Manapua, Pork Hash and Half Moon

Ono Seafood made-to-order Ahi Poke

Asahi Grill (sister restaurant to Kapiolani Coffee Shop) Oxtail Soup & Fried Rice

Alicia’s Market – Roasted Turkey Tails and Charsiu Pork Ribs combination plate, with Kim Chee and Potato-Mac’ Salad


Kin Wah Chop Suey lunch special: Kau Yuk, Spareribs, Beef Broccoli, Crisp Gau Gee, Fried Shrimp and Rice.

The finest Hawaii Regional Cuisine from Alan Wong’s

Awesome pastries at great prices from Kamehameha Bakery (I say “Kam” Bakery :-P)

Shimazu Shave Ice Melon Bar & Creamsicle Shave Ice


40 thoughts on “Where or what would you eat on your first day in Hawaii?

  • September 5, 2014 at 9:59 am

    I would probably choose to have a plate lunch from Rainbow Drive-In, but my first meal is generally from Kin Wah Chop Suey. Since it’s close to my mom’s, we usually stop there for take out to take to my mom’s.

  • September 5, 2014 at 10:56 am

    Ok, I’ve got a slightly different twist. Always when I come to Hawaii, I’m with at least 3 others (my wife and kids). We’ve stopped at Alicia’s, Pho 2, Rainbow, Leonard’s, etc. But let me toss this one out there. How about the Ala Moana Center? Between Foodland, the Makai Market food court, and the Shirokiya food court, the selection alone is almost overwhelming. Chinese, Hawaiian, Korean, Thai, Italian, Japanese, American… I could go on and on. Now I realize there are better restaurants to get, say, Hawaiian food on Oahu. But if I want lau lau or curry, and the wife wants green papaya salad or kalbi, and daughter 1 wants a kim chee tako poke bowl, and daughter 2 wants a nice bowl of ramen and a small ahi sashimi set, well. It’s all in one place, most of it’s pretty damned good, the prices aren’t off the hook, and everyone is happy! Just a thought.

    • September 5, 2014 at 9:32 pm

      Actually we do the same because we all got to settle down. So Poi Bowl for beef stew Lahaina Chicken for the misses. Foodland for poke.

      • September 6, 2014 at 10:19 am

        BBC, Ala Moana ‘ got everyone covered for sure. Including AFTER you eat, where while your wife and daughters spend hours shopping, you can hang at Mai Tai Bar to catch all the football games!

        Just wanna’ say I’m so glad that “ghosts of my past” aren’t at AMC anymore. ;-)

  • September 6, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    Live in Hawaii half the time. Coming in from HNL, first stop Alica’s for dinner to take up the hill. Second, Costco to load up the refridg. Pattern is so established, the guys at Alica’s always ask, “wen you get in?”

  • August 2, 2017 at 9:40 am

    Depending on when I get into town it would be either Alicia’s or Rainbow on my way to the hotel. If it’s really late then probably the Wailana after checking in.




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